SHALL WE TALK ABOUT RAPE?
Nothing exposes the backwardness of a country more than the prevalence of rape, backed by religious and cultural sentiments that relegate and subjugate women.
The Nigerian society which arrogantly hinges itself on the tenets of morality has been thrown under the weight of sexual perversion. UNICEF reported in 2015 that 1 in every 4 girls in Nigeria has experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Barely 3 months ago, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, said that 2, 000, 000 Nigerian girls and women are raped every year. This is heartbreaking!
It is important to note that the 2015 Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA) defines rape as ‘when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other parts of his/her body or anything else without consent, or with incorrectly obtained consent’. Rape is a deliberate tool to shame, intimidate and debase women and children.
Jurisprudentially, rape is not just a crime against the victim but the entire society. I have constantly observed that our society stigmatizes victims rather than offenders, and this is one of the reasons there are a series of unreported cases. Stop asking questions on what girls were wearing or putting on before the incident! Stop asking why they visited the places where they got raped! Stop asking if they were virgins or prostitutes or how many boyfriends they had! Save those unintelligent questions! Those questions validate secondary victimization and are counterproductive to eliminating sexual violence from our society. Let’s consider this scenario, imagine you left the gates to your house opened and people of the world visited to cart your properties away. Then they got caught and upon being interviewed, they claim that your properties were simply irresistible and you further encouraged them by leaving your gates open. How logical does that sound? This might not even be the perfect example for this phenomenon, as rape is more dehumanizing than the example given. While relating and counseling rape victims, I have observed that victims are usually in fear, panic and constantly battle nightmares, and if they are not properly managed, there is a possibility of the trauma leading to mental and psychological breakdown.
This article is not written to promote indecent dressing, making rape a tool for correcting and punishing indecent dressing is highly barbaric. There should be no excuse or justification for rape. For how long shall we continue to remain vulnerable? For how long shall we continue to blame victims for the acts of pedophile and sexual perverts? What then do you say to babies, ladies and well covered old women who still get raped.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the Nigerian criminal code which recommends life imprisonment for rape convicts and 14 years for attempted rape, Nigeria has an extremely low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuse, and it is sad to note that only 3 in every 1000 sexual assaults worldwide result in a conviction. A failed society is one in which there is little or no punishment for perpetrators of sexual abuse. Hence, there is no protection for victims. This calls for urgent attention of the members of the society, government and the international community to ensure a violence-free society.